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Trump prepares to run a courtroom campaign: From the Politics Desk

Plus, the key unanswered questions of the Biden-Trump rematch.
Donald Trump
Donald Trump at a Super Tuesday election night party at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on March 5.Evan Vucci / AP file

Welcome to the online version of From the Politics Desk, an evening newsletter that brings you the NBC News Politics team’s latest reporting and analysis from the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill.

In today’s edition, senior national political reporters Matt Dixon and Jonathan Allen report on Donald Trump's plans to use his time in the courtroom for political gain. Plus, senior Washington correspondent Hallie Jackson breaks looks ahead to the moments when key questions about the 2024 campaign will be answered.


How Trump plans to use his court dates to his advantage

By Matt Dixon and Jonathan Allen

Donald Trump’s campaign is engineering a plan to “make lemonade out of lemons” as a full docket of court appearances are about to swamp his political calendar. 

That reality was on display Thursday, with Trump spending the day in a Florida courtroom as his lawyers argued that the federal criminal case involving his handling of classified documents should be dismissed, a motion the judge denied. 

Moving forward, the former president’s advisers tell NBC News their strategy will involve trying to portray President Joe Biden as someone attempting to “imprison” his political opponents, muddying the waters between Trump and Biden’s legal problems, creating counterprogramming events focused on policy and ultimately pushing to delay the trials for as long as possible.


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Trump’s first criminal trial, over hush money payments to an adult film star, was set to begin March 25. But Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said Thursday he was willing to delay the start of the trial by 30 days after Trump had requested a 90-day delay. 

Along with the obvious legal pitfalls, the trial will have Trump in courtrooms almost all day at least four days a week for upward of eight weeks. It means Trump will, at times, be running for president functionally on a part-time basis.

On weekends between trial days, Trump is expected to be doing more policy-focused events, drawing contrasts between his proposals and Biden’s record. On Wednesdays — the one weekday without a court date — Trump is expected to focus on fundraising.

The Trump team also plans to deploy more top-level campaign surrogates and increase attacks on Biden over issues such as immigration, his mental fitness, crime and the economy.

Trump’s legal woes — which include dozens of separate charges across four separate indictments — served as political rocket fuel during the GOP primary. When entering the general election, however, the politics of Trump’s legal predicaments become increasingly murky.

Advisers believe that if they amplify attacks on Biden in an attempt to create an equivalency between Trump’s legal problems and Biden’s, they can effectively muddy the water with voters and in the process make the legal issues — including those related to election interference — a less significant issue. 

“We do not even really need to win the argument. We just have to neutralize it,” one Trump adviser said. “If we do, the decision-making calculus favors us.”

Read more here →


The key unanswered questions of the Biden-Trump rematch

Analysis by Hallie Jackson

It’s presumptively, officially the start of one of the longest general elections in a generation: Trump v. Biden 2024. They’ve each hit their magic numbers, they’ve turned their fire on each other, and multitudes of reporters are decamping to key swing states for vibe checks.

Are you shocked? Probably not, considering this is the matchup politicos have been predicting for months. But as our colleague Savannah Guthrie likes to say, while it may be a rematch, it’s not a replay. The polling looks different, the economic landscape looks different, and even though we know a lot about Biden and Trump, there are still some key questions about the 2024 race that have yet to be answered.

As noted above, Trump’s unresolved legal issues remain a major general election question mark. Mark April 25 on your calendar: That’s the day the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments over whether Trump is immune from criminal charges in his federal election interference case.

Not long after that, we’ll be barreling toward the conventions. The Republican confab kicks off July 15 in Milwaukee, while the Democrats will hold theirs in Chicago starting Aug. 19. Who will be joining Trump on stage this summer remains a major unknown as he mulls his running mate options.

Then the debates are typically held in the fall. After refusing to participate in the GOP primary debates and attacking the commission that organizes the general election debates, Trump is now saying he wants to go toe-to-toe with Biden. But the president has yet to commit to debating Trump. 

Those in the Biden orbit have told me often they don’t expect Americans to really start paying attention en masse until after Labor Day — we’ll see. And those close to Trump point out how his legal issues have, for months, helped him — we’ll see. For now, it’s Trump/Biden deja vu all over again, at least until it’s not.



🗞️ Today’s top stories

  • 🧍Mr. Independence: Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., hasn’t announced whether he’ll seek re-election as he faces a slew of federal charges, but one option he’s considering is running as an independent. Read more →
  • 🎶 Tick tock for TikTok: Former Treasury SecretarySteve Mnuchin is looking to get a group together to buy TikTok after the House passed a bill that could ban the app in the U.S. unless its China-based parent company divests it. Read more →
  • 🏠 This old house: Politico reports that Biden has “repeatedly pressed his senior staff for new ways to make homes more affordable and available” as he looks to promote some sort of relief from rising prices. Read more →
  • 🚗 Pedal to the meddle: Democrats are at it again, meddling in Ohio’s crowded GOP Senate race to lift up the Trump-backed Bernie Moreno ahead of next week’s primary. Read more →
  • 1️⃣ A first: Kamala Harris toured a Planned Parenthood clinic in Minnesota on Thursday, becoming what is believed to be the first president or vice president ever to visit a clinic that provides abortion services. Read more →
  • 3️⃣ Begun, the third-party wars have: Democrats are gearing up for a broad campaign against third-party and independent presidential candidates amid concerns they could hurt Biden’s chances in the fall. Read more →
  • 🗓️ Senate Fridays: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is pushing a bill to reduce the workweek from five to four days without loss of pay. Read more →

That’s all from The Politics Desk for now. If you have feedback — likes or dislikes — email us at politicsnewsletter@nbcuni.com

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